The Picasso of Pastry is none other than the inimitable French pastry chef Pierre Hermé as hailed by French Vogue, and anyone who walks into his jewelry store styled shops is stunned into submission.
André Soltner, the former chef at Lutèce in NYC and one of the deans at my cooking school, admonished us constantly that chefs are not artists, they are craftsmen. He continued that art is permanent; an artist can work on a creation as he pleases whereas a chef gets up every morning and “leaves it on the field” as they say on the gridiron. And you do it every day, day after long, greuling day, in his case for over 40 years. But…
…when it comes to Pierre Hermé and his patisseries, he is not only a dedicated chef producing the finest pastries day after day after day, he is undeniably an artist as his creations are not only visually stunning, they are structurally brilliant. By that I mean the combination of flavors, textures, colors, presentation, and there is always a surprise. In fact one of his pastries is indeed titled Surprise (soo-preeze), a delicate meringue cup filled with various delights.
I was fortunate enough to land an internship at Pierre Hermé Patisserie and it is like being in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory — the old one, not the new creepy Tim Burton/Johnny Depp one. I worked in both the laboratoire (main kitchen) in the 15th and the store on rue Bonaparte in the 6th. I had to arrive at 6am. In the laboratoire, we made a few thousand macarons a day! When I worked in the store, my first project each morning was to make a few hundred ispahans, depending on the orders.
The store opens at 10am and on most days there was already a line waiting for a hot-out-of-the-oven almond croissant or hazelnut-truffle macarons or a sugar-coma-sweet rose ispahan filled with raspberries, lychees nuts and rose butter cream topped with a perfect rose petal or the hand-made chocolates flavored with beguiling bergamot or intoxicating passion fruit (my hands down favorite). The store closes at 7pm and most if not all the pastries have been snatched up, at a pretty penny I might add, and no doubt consumed within a few steps of leaving the store. Here is a sampling of the Picasso of Pastry’s art:
chocolate yuzu tart
orange cheesecake (good but not as good as my grandmother’s!)
Pierre Hermé Patisserie
72, rue Bonaparte
(across from St Sulpice Church)
+33 (0) 1 43 54 47 77
185, rue de Vaugirard
(at Metro: Pasteur)